By Sanjeewa Ranaweera –
Last Friday, the lawyers across the country boycotted court proceedings. The learned judges of the lower courts also did not take their respective benches. And the cases that were to be heard in the superior courts had to be postponed as a result of the lawyers’ absence. So, the 20th of July 2012 made history as a day, on which the justice system of the country shuddered to a halt of its own volition.
Well, one might argue that bringing the judiciary to a virtual standstill is not the proper response to an assault on its independence. But it was only a mark of protest. And such protests are inevitable when ministers are beginning to feel that the learned judges of this country need their (the Ministers’) instructions to make a just and fair court order.
Sometime ago, one potential litigant told me that he was confident of the victory in the court case that he was planning to institute. I casually asked him as to what made him to be so certain about the outcome of the case even before the Court hearing it. Then he triumphantly said that so-and-so (an influential figure) had spoken to the judge. I didn’t take it seriously then and assumed that the poor man had been cleverly deceived by the politician concerned (This politician was known for his artful deceptive tactics anyway).
However, the situation has now changed evidently. There is this unfortunate perception amongst the public now that the political authorities are manipulating the decisions of the judiciary. And also, there are many instances where people choose not to litigate, purely because some dominant personality was involved in the matter. They believe that the learned judges would not dare to make an order favourable to them in the teeth of the super powers involved. And recently, we witnessed how a Minister (who has come under severe criticism over his handling of the subject of education) and few of his loyalists reacted to a judgement delivered by the apex court of this country. They hurriedly called a press conference and questioned the clarity of the judgement! And a so-called professor who was responsible for the blunder, which the Court has now finally remedied, publicly claimed that he still stands by his decision showing no respect to the verdict delivered by the head of the judiciary.
It appears that the Ministers, Parliamentarians and some of the staunch supporters of the ‘widely perceived supreme power’ can borrow its supremacy as and when they need it and conduct themselves with manifest impunity. The only institution that the powerless could seek justice is now being publicly ridiculed and the perpetrators are protected by the supposed supreme power itself.
We all know that power corrupts. And now we see that it generates insanity too. Perhaps ‘insanity’ is the stage that one reaches when the power he wields corrupts him to the hilt. When ministers threaten to burn down cities and the court houses are being stoned, it is self-evident that our chosen rulers have reached that stage of insanity. And when the insane governs the country, it is in an utter mess for obvious reasons.
And in the midst of all this negativity, let me acknowledge something positive as they say – “Every cloud has a silver lining”. That is, we still have forthright men serving on the bench. Also, we still have principled professionals who stand firm collectively when the course of justice is challenged by the high and mighty who, with the accumulation of wealth and power, have lost their sanity!
* Sanjeewa Ranaweera ; Attorney-at-Law